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What does the Mother You Thought You'd be Like?


How to let go of the ideal and strive in a more productive way.


The mother I thought I would be…


“The mother I thought I would be” is always put together, always patient, always ready to listen with baked goods in the oven, clean house, clean clothes, and a clean car. She is creative and organized; she works full time and also drives carpool; she cooks healthy nourishing food that her children happily eat; she has time for everyone always, exercises regularly, learns daily, cooks for every yoledet, hosts large tables for shabbos and is a happy, pleasant, supportive wife, always.


In short, she is an impossible standard.


“The mother I thought I would be” is a combination of my favorite traits of my mother, my favorite babysitters, my grandmother, and my friends’ mothers. I dreamt her up as I read books, sat in inspiring lectures, or in moments of teenage righteous indignation when I was sure I would never do [insert whatever egregious wrong my parents were doing, like telling me to be home by 11pm…].


Everyone has a “mother I thought I would be.” We dreamt her up as part of normal childhood and young adult development. We dreamt her up on a full night’s sleep, while other people cooked our meals and paid our bills. Everyone needs to aspire to an ideal. Ideals inspire us. They are important.

So, here’s a challenge mom: does your “mother I thought I would be” inspire you today or does she hold you back, burn you out and make you short-tempered?


Here are some signs she may be holding you back; when you think of “the mother I thought I would be.”


Do you you feel: Inadequate? Tired? Self Critical? Trapped? Angry?


If these are the types of feelings your “ideal” brings up for you, she is likely more “idol,” than “ideal.” Many of us have a hodgepodge mix of different ideals that we loosely glued together into a picture that is entirely unrealistic. Then we serve that “idol,” exhausting ourselves living up to an unreachable goal.


So, what can you do? Great question!

  1. Talk out, write out or even draw your “mother I thought I would be.” Putting it out there, externalizing it, will allow your adult self to view it with perspective. (You may even laugh out loud at some of the contradictions you find.)

  2. Take a moment to appreciate the ideals that you aspired to when you first imagined her.

  3. “Upgrade the operating system”: Knowing what you know about yourself now (your personality, what inspires you today, who your spouse is, who your kids are, what your life circumstances are, etc), update her to a realistic and inspiring version. If she is inspiring you should feel like: * she represents a balanced life (even in times of difficulty) * she is healthy * there is joy in her life * she is growing * she gives you energy

  4. Talk, write or draw her. Put it somewhere that will remind you that this is your inspiring ideal.

  5. Choose one small action, so small you cannot possibly fail, to become more like her, more like “the mother I really want to be”…

It is an art to be the mother you really want to be, to express your true self in your home and in your parenting. Being that mother starts by saying goodbye to old ideals that hold us back and living, today by our own, true values.

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